The Wellington club rugby sevens season resumes in earnest tomorrow, with the 2016 WRFU American Ambassador’s Club Championship 7s tournament being staged at Mary Crowther Park in Wainuiomata.
The one-day tournament has attracted 28 teams representing 13 clubs and three school teams who will be competing for Cup glory across three divisions. This is down on the record 35 teams last year, but with 68 matches there’s no shortage of action.
There’s 16 Men’s teams playing for the American Ambassador’s Cup itself, eight teams, including a re-formed Petone side and the Condor-Sevens bound St Mary’s College team, contesting the Women’s Eleanor Roosevelt Cup and a four-team Colts division that includes recent Wellington Condor boys champions St Pat’s Town and runners-up St Pat’s Silverstream.
The defending American Ambassador’s Men’s and Women’s champions are the Upper Hutt Rams (Men’s) and Oriental-Rongotai (Women’s), while the Rams did the double last year at Trentham Memorial Park in also winning the Colts section.
Ories won the Women’s title in 2014, so both will be gunning for a three-peat, while HOBM won this trophy two years ago when it was staged at Evans Bay Park.
In last year’s Men’s final, the Rams beat Marist St Pat’s 39-14, holding a narrow lead early in the second half but pulling clear with three tries to take a resounding victory.
Last year, Ories retained the Eleanor Roosevelt Cup with a 35-15 win in the final over Wainuiomata, while the Junior Rams beat their neighbours St Pat’s Silverstream 19-15 to win the Colts decider.
Both finalists in the Men’s section will qualify for the National Club Sevens Championship in Hamilton in the New Year. This is the stated goal of the Upper Hutt Rams, who could be without the inspirational Hayden Schrijvers, who suffered a tongue injury in last weekend’s Village Kings tournament.
With no real lead-in tournament it is difficult to gauge form, but the Moata’a team that won last weekend’s Village Kings tournament had a heavy Hutt Old Boys Marist influence, and the Eagles should go deep. MSP are coached by Fa’atonu Fili and feature players such as former New Zealand U20 No. 8 Matt Peni and John Tuia who was the Player of the Tournament at Wise Park last Saturday.
Old Boys University, Northern United, Wainuiomata, Johnsonville, Paremata-Plimmerton, Avalon, Wellington, Poneke, Petone and traditional powerhouses Ories make up the rest of the men’s draw. Jubilee Cup champions Tawa haven’t entered a team. The Rams, MSP and Wellington are each fielding two sides.
Northern United won last weekend’s six-team lead-in Women’s tournament at Ian Galloway Park, edging Avalon in the final. Ories will also be hard to beat, while MSP could be a dark horse, St Mary’s College will challenge all comers and Petone could present somewhat of an unknown challenge.
The two St Pat’s college squads will be up against HOBM and Ories in the four-team Colts section, where a new champion will be found without defending champions Upper Hutt entering a side this year.
The rugby will be played across three fields, with the Colts (finals on Field Three) and Men’s predominantly contested on Field One and Two, the Men’s on Field Two and the Women’s on Field Three.
Pool play runs from 9.00 am until approximately 12.58pm, after which the crossover matches are all underway. These start at 12.41pm in the Women’s section, 1.49pm in the Colts and 1.15pm in the Men’s. The Women’s Cup final is at 2.40pm, the Colts Cup final is at 2.06pm and the Men’s Cup final is at 3.14pm.
The weather forecast is good, with a steady northerly breeze blowing up the valley all day. When the crossover matches get underway after lunch the ground will be sizzling.
About the American Ambassador’s tournament
The original American Ambassador’s Trophy was presented in 1967 by John F Henning, US Ambassador to New Zealand in the 1960s. From 1967 until 1998 this tournament was held at Trentham Memorial Park on a Sunday in February as a precursor to the Regional Sevens held in Feilding in mid-March, followed by the Sevens Nationals.
From 1999- 2012 this became a series of typically three tournaments with points awarded in each round an overall winner declared at the end. 2016 is the fourth year of it being a standalone one-day tournament.
American Ambassador’s Sevens tournament key information
What: WRFU American Ambassador’s Sevens tournament
Where: Mary Crowther Park, Wainuiomata
When: Saturday 5 November, all day
Grades: Men’s, Women’s and Colts
Kick-off: 9.00am (Women’s Cup final at 2.40pm, Colts Cup final at 2.06pm and Men’s Cup Final at 3.14pm)
Pools and teams
Pool A: MSP A, Wainuiomata, Johnsonville, Northern United
Pool B: Wellington A, Ories, Paremata-Plimmerton, Upper Hutt Rams B
Pool C: Upper Hutt Rams A, OBU, Avalon, Wellington B
Pool D: HOBM, Poneke, MSP B, Petone
Pool E: Northern United, Oriental-Rongotai, Marist St Pat’s, Petone
Pool F: Avalon, OBU, HOBM, St Mary’s College
Colts: HOBM, Petone, Oriental-Rongotai, St Pat’s Silverstream, St Pat’s Town